Magazine article National Defense

Washington Pulse

Magazine article National Defense

Washington Pulse

Article excerpt

EXPECTATIONS FOR AFRICOM SLIGHTLY OVERPLAYED

The Pentagon slowly has begun to downplay what so far have been lofty expectations about its new Africa Command, which is scheduled to open for business next year. In a series of high-profile announcements last year, defense officials hailed Africom as a key element in the U.S. fight against terrorism and as a smart strategic move to counteract China's growing influence in the region.

But those assertions may have been a bit exaggerated.

"We hopefully cleared up the misunderstanding that Africom was being stood up in response to Chinese presence on the continent," says Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense tor Policy Ryan Henry, speaking to reporters after returning from a trip to Africa in April. The command, he adds, is "not being stood up solely for the effort of enhanced counterterrorism." He said it would be more accurate to describe Africom as an "organizational and a staffing structure; it is not an operational entity."

DEFENSE DEPT. SEEKS OPEN DIALOGUE WITH INDUSTRY

Pentagon officials for years have preached about the need to attract innovative, nontraditional businesses, which typically shy away from the cumbersome ways of government procurement.

But the Defense Department has yet to find an effective vehicle to communicate candidly with industry, laments Eileen Giglio, assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for business transformation. "The Defense Department is wonderful at having conferences, doing presentations, and telling industry exactly what we think and how we're doing things," she tells contractors. "But that doesn't help with the dialogue and the interaction."

Giglio is considering hosting off-the-record "industry roundtables" where there could be more forthright exchanges. "We are not doing a good job with small businesses. We need to find better ways to give them opportunities and create more interaction." Because of legal and ethical constraints, the Defense Department could not choose which companies to invite, so it would rely on industry associations to compile the invitation lists.

AIR FORCE STUMBLES ON CYBER-WAR PLANNING

The Air Force announced with great fanfare earlier this year that it was elevating the mission of cyber-warfare to an all-important status, and designated the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., as the home of the new Cyberspace Command.

There is now speculation that the service is struggling with how to bring these grand plans to fruition. A major hurdle is how to take on this mission without duplicating what U.S. Strategic Command already is doing. …

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